Denver native Brittany Charboneau is an elite runner for Mercuria Running and is the self-proclaimed Funny Runner because she uses her background in comedy in her approach to all things running, racing and life. Although Brittany started running at the age of 13, she was never a podium-finisher, race winner or die-hard runner. She just loved running. Following a brief collegiate career as a walk-on her junior and senior years at Colorado State University, Brittany transitioned into the marathon distance as an average runner. It wasn't until winning and setting the course record at the 2017 Colfax Marathon in Denver did Brittany begin her professional career. Her most recent performance included a 13th place finish and 3 minute personal record at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. She uses the foundation principles of improv comedy in her approach to running to play on her runs, keep running fun and most of all, to stay present in the moment!
What race did you qualify for the Olympic trials and what was the moment like when you qualified?
I qualified for Trials at the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon. I ran a 2:36:24, which was not only good enough for the 'A' qualifying standards, but also a 15 minute PR! As you can imagine, I was in a bit of a state of awe when I saw my time at the finish line and realized what I had done! Keep in mind, this was also less than one year after I decided to run professionally, so that was an even bigger moment of shock but one I'll never forget.
Describe the experience competing against the best marathon runners in the United States.
Trials was actually my second time running with the best marathoners in the US. My first experience was the 2018 NYC Marathon...and it was terrifying, haha. That was my first race being among the best of the best and those that I'd idolized for so many years. Around mile 3 of New York, I found myself leading the race...me! I remember thinking "I'm on the wrong course! Why am I leading?" I didn't have a great race at New York because I let the fear take over and didn't run my race. So, at Trials, I knew where my fitness was, what it felt like to run with the best, and more importantly, that I belonged among the best too. I had prepped myself to not freak out about being with the other women because I knew I was going to run my own race plan and that I deserved to be there too.
What lessons did you take away from the race?
If I follow my race plan, I will have a great result! The week leading up to the race is where the real mental work is done. Surrendering to joy and covering my watch to not worry about pace is the best thing that I could have done. All of the hill training I had done was so worth it. Enjoy every single second of an amazing experience that I get to do...I don't have to do anything except stay present and smile!
How did you finish compared to your expectations?
Of course, I was training to run top 3 because why wouldn't I aim as high as possible? I was thrilled with my performance and finish of 13th place and a PR on that hilly course, especially after only running pro for just over 2 years. My goal was to "move the needle" meaning as long as I was improving on various areas of my own racing (pre-race, mentally, on hills, my finish, etc.), then I can walk away knowing I had won the day.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
My coach and I haven't set the rest of my race plan for 2020 yet. My goal is to continue to move the needle, to stay as positive as I have been and to keep playing on this crazy journey!
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
With the help of my strength trainer, I lift 2 to 3 times per week focusing namely on heavy weight, low reps on lower body. The remaining days of the week I do plyometrics and core work. Understanding how to use my glutes for power and speed has been such a game changer in my running.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
Oh man, we'd need an entire book for this! Aside from all of the strange places I manage to find change on my runs, one of the coolest experiences was winning the Leadville Heavy Half last summer because instead of winning a traditional trophy or medal as we do in road racing, I won a pick axe and a mining pan!
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
My go to dinner before is usually some sort of pasta and veggies. I eat a big breakfast on race day, typically a big stack of pancakes with peanut butter and bananas. Coffee is also a must. I love running fully-fueled, and a high-carb meal is what keeps me going.
What's your biggest fear?
That I'll look back at my life and wish I had done more or regret not living it up!
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Tapping. Tapping of any kind drives me bonkers, haha. My Jusband (husband named Justin) taps when music is playing and I try not to lose my mind, haha.
Can you explain the decorations on your visit and racing kit?
Each week during training, my coach gives me a training theme. It's then my job to creatively incorporate that theme into my runs throughout the week. This keeps it fun, playful and I get to explore new things or people. Since we had to cover logos on our race kits and I knew this ahead of time, I decided to cover mine based on my themes. My outfit was super colorful to start with because it totally matched my personality and energy I wanted to bring to race day. To cover the logos, I had orange, pink and yellow polka dots as a nod to President James K. Polk-a Dot (and all of the other presidents during Presidents Week). The pumpkins were dedicated to one of my favorite artists Yayoi Kusama, who loves pumpkins in her art and was another theme during training. Finally, the small pearls were for the legendary Julia Child because she was always rocking a set of pearls!
Do you like ice baths?
I used to take an ice bath every Sunday after my long run, but I don't find them particularly beneficial anymore. I've found that because I've made so many improvements in my diet, my running form and my overall recovery routine that my body feels great and doesn't need the ice bath.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I love making art, visiting art museums or learning about artists on podcasts. I teach and perform improv 1 to 2 nights per week to keep my comedic muscles flexed. I love downtime hanging out with the Jusband and taking naps with our cats. I'm a big reader, so I always build in time in the morning and before bed to read.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Keep running fun! Even at my level, the less stress we can put on running, the more fun it is. This should be priority number one. Listen to your body, have grace with yourself and for goodness sake eat your carbs and do your glute work!
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
Biggest strength is my approach and playfulness. I love running so much, and I do a really great job in protecting my relationship with running. Biggest weakness is remembering to prioritize my rest.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
I've always looked up to Shalane Flanagan. She has accomplished so much in the sport and really paved the way for all of us. I remember watching her finish the 2018 NYC Marathon, and was in tears with inspiration. I worked hard after that, and the very next year I was running the same race with her. Her positivity and grit makes her such a stand-out athlete.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
My teammate Nikhil is one of my favorites because he keeps it so fun and positive! Plus, we eat breakfast tacos and homemade granola bars on our trail runs together!
Did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today in the sport?
A couple of years ago, I would have said not a chance! But now that I am where I am, I know that anything is possible as long as I keep my approach and my work ethic in place. We are all truly limitless if we let ourselves believe this and are willing to put the work behind the dream.
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